Juliet Rozani is a storyteller, poet, entrepreneur and social consciousness activist. Her first poem was published in 2006. In 2007/8 two of her poems were featured in two different poetry anthologies. Her passion for the performing arts saw her write, perform and direct plays and monologues.
She also pioneered a human anti-traffic campaign for girls. Juliet has had the privilege of sharing the stage with the phenomenal South African storyteller Gcina Mhlope and Jamaican poet Staceyann Chin.
Her love for storytelling and activism led her to write a children’s book called “Azira – A Tale of an African Princess”. The story follows a young girl called Azira who battles and conquers the connotation of beauty as defined by societal standards.
The book is about inspiration, motivation and self-esteem. It inspires girls to look inward and see their beauty from within. It motivates them to be positive, to find fortitude from the book. It gives them the self-esteem to go for whatever they want to achieve, no matter what the circumstances they are facing.
The purpose of the story of Azira is to present different kinds of beauties to children while they are young, so they may grow up with freedom of clear definitions of what is beauty in a broad manner. Children at a young age do not have a definition of beauty until they are exposed to what their community defines as beauty.
In most cases, their community defines beauty as physical which is about a perfect image, straight long hair, wide eyes, pretty face, beautiful clothes, light skin tone and a slim body. Through this book, the narrative of physical beauty is reversed and children are taken back to a time when beauty is not physical, a time when they were not taught that you are only beautiful if you have a light skin tone, long straight hair or a pretty face.
The story of Azira presents to every child a look on the “inside out beauty” from kindness and being good to others. The story also presents the beauty of talents/gifts that makes every child unique and beautiful regardless of colour or nationality.
Juliet’s main aim in writing this story is to encourage self-belief in every young girl no matter who they are. Every child should look at themselves in the mirror and love the person they are. From the way they speak, the way they think or the way they treat others because that is beauty. Every gift in every child must come to life, because dreams can be dreamt from anywhere in the world by anyone and all you have to do is believe.
As a writer, I get fascinated to learn about children and discover all beautiful things about them. In writing the story of Azira I was deeply inspired by different stories of children across racial lines, children who believed they were ugly and they didn’t have friends in class or they were teased for certain features by other kids. One of the stories that got stuck with me is a story of a girl who pretended to be sick on the day of her class photos just so she could erase herself from the group, because her skin was darker than anybody else in her class.
I have also learnt that kids can internalise and not tell when certain things bother them. It is an achievement that the story of Azira has been able to shift little voices to speak up. During 2016 we took the first draft of the story to a school and it was read out to a group of kids, one girl stood up and started opening up about how she was Azira, she had been teased for being fat as a result she didn’t like her body, she felt ugly. But after reading the story of Azira she felt empowered and started to love all of her beauty.
“Azira-A Tale of an African Princess” is currently available as an ebook on Amazon, Iana Africa online shop and on Google Play. The hardcopy will be available at various book stores around the country this coming April.